Sunday, April 6, 2014

A Passover Custom That Was All Greek To Me Until....

I'm back in Israel after an eye-opening Jewish history visit in Greece.

Last week my blog dealt with the Jews of Thessaloniki and their Passover customs. This post will focus on the Romaniote Jews of Ioannina -- a city in north-western Greece.

No, I didn't travel to Ioannina. I found out about this dwindling Jewish community when I visited the Jewish Museum of Greece located in Athens. Since my focus here is on holiday customs, I won't go into the background of this unusual community, except to say that they are the original Greek Jews with a history dating back over 2,000 years. Their story is fascinating, so please click on the links above to read all about them.

Now, on the Romaniote Seder which isn't even called a Seder. Here's the interesting custom. For them, the Passover ceremony around the table is called Hova -- חובה -- which in Hebrew means obligation. The name Hova immediately gives seder/סדר -- order -- to the evening. It reminds us that we must fulfill the commandment to "tell your children" about the Exodus from Egypt. Consequently, as a reinforcement of this reminder, the Romaniote Hova begins by everyone placing their hands on the table while reciting the phrase  זה השולחן אשר לפני השם -- This is the table before God.

To be honest, I heard about the hand custom years ago, but it was all Greek to me since my Greek-Israeli friend shrugged it off as something Greek Jews do without providing a reason as to why. I have to hand it to the museum staff member who gave me the explanation, making sure I would include it in my blog. I even purchased a copy of the Romaniote Hagaddah.

So, let's get on with our Hova. Make your Seder enlightening and enjoyable. To remind you how to keep everyone involved -- children and adults alike -- have a look at one of my first posts and have a חג שמח!

Hands Photo Credit

No comments:

Post a Comment